One of the most interesting characters is Fiona Wachter, a noblewoman, and servant of Strahd von Zarovich who is conspiring to take over the town of Vallaki.
She’s a character with a boat-load of potential. Honestly, it makes me a little sad that she can be almost completely overlooked in the adventure as it’s written.
Fortunately, my group found themselves taking a keen interest in the politics of Vallaki. It made it necessary to reimagine the character of Fiona into something that would really serve my group’s game.
What resulted is a character that just might forever haunt my players’ memories as one of their most hated villains.
So today I thought it would be fun to share that story.
There’s very little help when it comes to determining what might happen if Fiona succeeds in her ambitions to take over Vallaki. Hopefully, this can give you inspiration for your own games or at least just entertain you.
For my own group, the only worry I was left with is if Fiona accidentally stole the spotlight from Strahd as the story’s villain!
Be mindful that this article is going to include spoilers for the
Additionally, some of the story might be too brutal for some tastes. It gets a bit brutal. If you aren’t comfortable with an article that is rated “R”, you might instead like this story about my Gnome Artificer that (basically) built a Death Star.
With that said, let’s get into it!
The Story Thus Far
The party has arrived in Vallaki with Ireena in tow.
Our heroes are:
- Kronus, the Human Storm Sorcerer
- Lucine, the Aasimar Circle of the Moon Druid
- Chad, the Human Vengeance Paladin
- Vlad, the Drow College of Swords Bard
They want to take Ireena to the abbey on the other side of the Barovia Valley where they believe she will be safe. However, they are seeking to lay low in Vallaki for a short time before then.
The town is fortified but doesn’t appear to offer much of a break from the doom and gloom of Barovia.
Posters for the upcoming Festival of the Blazing Sun are nailed to every building and fixture within the town. While everyone is smiling and acting in a cheery manner, their eyes all tell a different story.
The town’s current burgomaster, Baron Vargas Vallakovich, has made happiness mandatory in Vallaki. He holds to the belief that happiness will keep Strahd away and launches weekly festivals to “keep spirits up.”
In reality, these festivals are a constant drain on the town’s limited resources. While the people are forced to pretend to be happy (or risk punishment), they are crushed by poverty.
Baron Vallakovich regularly calls out that “All Will Be Well!” but it has quickly become more patronizing than assuring.
Things are undeniably grim in Vallaki, but there’s someone who has a solution to these problems…
Someone who’s been biding their time for many years…
Lady Fiona Wachter is disgusted by Baron Vallakovich’s incompetence. She is vocal about her opinions of how Vallaki is being run as well as her support for Strahd Von Zarovich.
I chose to portray her as a mix of Hannibal Lecter and the infamous “Karen” stereotypes. She expected the party to greet her properly (addressing her as “Lady Fiona”, kissing her hand, etc.) and was very forward about the nature of their relationship.
The rules were simple: as long as the party was useful to her, she could use her knowledge and station to aid them.
As it turned out, she was able to shed some light on a couple of homebrewed side quests I added into our game. (The details of those quests aren’t so important to this story.)
Fiona was planning a full-out revolution in Vallaki. She had lined up most of the pieces of her plan, but Baron Vallakovich’s right-hand man, Izek, was an obstacle that she hadn’t been able to remove yet.
After some mild deliberation, the party decided that Lady Fiona couldn’t possibly be worse than the current burgomaster.
She was stern and not particularly trustworthy, but she seemed pragmatic and didn’t mince words. The party figured she probably isn’t all bad. After all, she talked a lot about renewing commerce in Vallaki and had clear plans for how to rebuild the town.
After a quick scouting mission in the Burgomaster’s mansion, the party decided that they were going to ally with Fiona. In their minds, Baron Vallakovich was as useless and self-indulgent as Fiona claimed. They didn’t trust Fiona, but figured she could still be a useful ally or, at the very least, “frenemy.”
Some Creative Liberties
For roleplaying purposes, the goal was to make the party feel like they were talking to a spider. Just by meeting her, they were now in her web.
Something about the way that Lady Fiona is portrayed in the module just never quite did it for me. She comes off as a disagreeable, bitter old woman who is ultimately all bark and no bite.
In the book, her devil cult (aka “book club”) is all smoke and mirrors. Any “allies” that she has are simply allied with her by convenience.
I wanted Fiona in my campaign to be someone with a great deal of ambition and the means to follow through with her carefully laid plans. However, she always has plans to quickly deal with those who find themselves as “loose ends” to her plans or could potentially double-cross her.
If she could just get the party’s buy-in, she could kick off her revolution. Once the party dealt with Izek, everything else was ready to fall into place.
Considering her character, I gave her a fair deal of knowledge about the arcane. She took a great deal of pride in her collection of books, artifacts, and oddities.
As uncomfortable as interactions with her were, the party found themselves relying on her talent for knowing things. Of course, this often found them running errands of a questionable nature, but they all agreed early on to not question or disappoint her.
Whatever consequences would come from those actions would almost certainly be swift and severe.
I completely removed Fiona’s sons from the story, but I did keep her daughter in.
Her spy, Ernst, was no longer a money-grubber who wouldn’t hesitate to blackmail her if their relationship soured. Instead, he was fiercely loyal to her. Not only did he believe Fiona to be the winning side, but he believed that her growing in power would naturally benefit him as her right-hand man.
Taking over Vallaki was the current obsessive goal for Fiona, but even that would ultimately never be enough. She had a paranoid side to her and always wanted more power to overcome those feelings.
It was a vicious spiral that caused her to react severely (to the point of overreacting) against even the smallest perceived move against her. As her power and influence would grow, so did her paranoia.
The party hatched a plan to lure out Izek and ambush him. When they gave the signal that he had been dealt with, Fiona had others in other areas of Vallaki who were ready to act.
Dark storm clouds gathered over Vallaki. The occasional flashes of lightning and booms of thunder in the distance seemed to announce to all of Barovia what was to come.
While he put up quite the fight, the party was able to defeat Izek and his guards. Kronus, the Storm Sorcerer, sent up a beacon of lightning to signal that Izek had been removed from the picture.
It was time.
Roughly 1/3 of Vallaki’s citizens were screaming and attempting to shelter in their homes. Most of the others were forming into an angry mob.
Behind the scenes, Fiona and her book club had been stoking the flames of a swift revolution for many years now. Hushed whispers and secret meetings away from the eyes and ears of Baron Vallakovich called attention to the peoples’ hardships.
Most importantly, these whispers promised a better opportunity. Choosing between the Baron’s wasteful festivals while so many had nothing or Fiona’s hefty promises, the people of Vallaki began to riot.
Fiona wasn’t a particularly loved person within the city, but the people were desperate and she seemed to have a plan.
No Turning Back Now
Fiona had to act decisively. As the angry crowd continued to expand, she ascended the steps of the church and got the mob’s attention.
Using the thaumaturgy spell to amplify her voice, she called out to the crowd and gave an impassioned speech. Spinning Baron Vallakovich’s catchphrase, she convinces the crowd that “all will NOT be well” and that “all CANNOT be well” until the city is purged of the Vallakoviches and any who would show them sympathy.
“Tonight, people of Vallaki, we must atone for our actions under Baron Vallakovich’s rule.” Fiona cawed from atop the stairs. “The streets must run red with an offering of the blood of everyone who allowed you to be kept like this!”
The party, standing beside Fiona at the top of the stairs, began to grow uncomfortable.
The storm continued to grow and rain began to pour as the citizens of Vallaki gathered any tools they could. Screams began to echo throughout the city as those accused of being loyal to Baron Vallakovich were executed on the spot by the angry crowd.
“Guys, I think we made a bad decision…” Kronus whispered to the others.
“It’s too late. If we try to backpedal this mob will tear us apart!” Lucine replied.
The party’s Bard, Vlad, however, seemed to enjoy the view. He suggested to Fiona that he play a song on his violin for the occasion. Fiona loved the idea and, with an uncomfortably large smile, nodded her head.
Chad, the Paladin, was furious. He made some attempts to calm down the crowd, but those were unsuccessful. He didn’t mean for things to get this extreme and was now being forced to witness the results. Rather than risk the entire city turning on him, he walked into the empty church away from the chaos outside.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Baron and Baroness Vallakovich tried pleading with the crowd to spare their lives, but their words fell on deaf ears.
Fiona commanded Vlad to play something “more appropriate” as she formally sentenced the Baron and Baroness to be executed.
All that remained was for the mob to take whatever they could from the Burgomaster’s mansion and burn “that eyesore” to the ground.
Fiona turned to the party members. Sensing some measure of regret from them, she chose her words carefully.
“I couldn’t have done this without you.”
Somehow, this expression of thanks seemed more like a threat than anything to the party.
They didn’t expect Fiona’s plan to be as decisive and severe as it was. But they now knew just how much weight their choices carried. They couldn’t keep pretending that their hands were clean anymore.
You see, up to this point, the party had made a habit of being… well, certainly not good…
I portrayed Fiona’s Revolution in a way very similar to the French Revolution. It had to be something big and the party should be left wondering if directly enabling this much death was the “right” thing to do.
Fiona had just gained a great deal of power, but the party has now seen just how she operates. If they stopped being useful to her, what could stop her from turning on them just as severely? They didn’t want to become one of those “loose ends” that Fiona felt the need to deal with.
Between having to witness Fiona’s Revolution and wondering if they chose the wrong person to ally themselves with, the party was eager to leave the city as soon as possible.
The New Vallaki
Fiona’s Revolution was effectively the ending to Act 1 of the adventure.
It was bittersweet and the party, talking amongst themselves once they left Vallaki, acknowledged that it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” they would find themselves having to move against Fiona.
Act 2 was primarily focused on the party finding and acquiring the Items of Ravenkind. Throughout this portion of the adventure, they would find themselves needing to return to Vallaki from time to time.
It didn’t take long for things to start looking better for the longsuffering town. Under Fiona’s leadership, the mess from the Revolution was cleaned up fairly quickly. Each time the party would visit the town, more major progress had been made on the town’s reconstruction.
Cobblestone walkways were laid over what used to be mud pits. Immaculately trimmed rose bushes began to fill the city. Buildings received much-needed facelifts and the statue of Baron Vallakovich was torn down to instead raise one of Strahd Von Zarovich.
Similarly, the stained glass windows on the church now depicted Strahd instead of the previous saintly images connected to the Morninglord.
People seemed happier as Fiona’s promise of renewing commerce in the city seemed to hold true. Everything was eerily “perfect” in Vallaki now, but it seemed that some good came from the party’s decision.
However, they would also come to learn that Fiona’s paranoia had gotten worse.
To ensure that nobody could rise against her as she rose against Baron Vallakovich, Fiona quickly established a type of secret police that was meant to root out anyone who spoke ill of her. Such cases were dealt with in secret and anything that challenged her “perfect” narrative was cause for execution.
Time and time again, the party found themselves needing information or assistance from Fiona. Each time, the party would have new reasons to be concerned about her.
Lucine worked tirelessly to keep her allies level-headed in their dealings with Vallaki’s new leader. They could never tell if Fiona was intentionally growing more insulting towards them or if she just had no regard.
Perhaps the most morbid piece of her collection (and constant reminder for the party) was Vlad, the party’s former ally.
Having met his untimely end as the party was dealing with the corrupted Druids on the other side of the valley, Fiona offered the party some assistance in exchange for Vlad’s corpse. As the only Drow in Barovia, she was keen to preserve his corpse as a type of display for her collection.
With great reluctance, the party had agreed to her terms.
As Act 2 progressed, the party no longer believed Strahd’s sob story. Their problem with him was growing intensely personal. Between Fiona’s support for Strahd and her other actions, Fiona had found herself on the party’s bad side as well.
As soon as they believed they were strong enough, they knew that they would have to act just as decisively as Fiona did if they wanted to take her out of the picture.
Reports of her storing crates of vampiric zombie creatures beneath the town were a major cause for concern. Chad, the party’s Paladin, particularly took issue with her desecration of St. Andral’s Church.
When the party was ready to move towards their confrontation with Strahd, they decided to first dispose of Fiona. After several real-world months of anticipation, it was finally time to move against their frenemy.
Because the party had really latched onto the quest of helping the Keepers of the Feather, they had the benefit of some information about what was going on in Vallaki thanks to the wereraven scouts.
It was painfully clear that Fiona was prepared to let the entire town be destroyed rather than give up her new position of power. Hordes of vampiric creatures were being stored beneath the city and were to be released if Fiona found herself under attack.
Additionally, strange lights and ominous sounds were observed coming from inside her home. It was reasonable to assume that Fiona had somehow managed to make contact with some kind of malevolent entity…
The party had managed to gather several allies throughout their adventure. If they wanted to get rid of Fiona, they would need to hatch a plan that could be followed through quickly and decisively.
Pulling up a map of Vallaki, they split into 5 strike teams.
The Strike Teams
Team 1 was the party themselves. We were down 1 player (who had to leave the campaign previously due to some real-world obligations), so the party chose to bring Rudolph Van Richten with them for their mission. They would secure the Blue Water Inn then charge Fiona’s home.
Team 2 was Flintlock (the gnome Psi Warrior who replaced Vlad that had to bow out of the adventure), Lucy (the gnome cleric played by Vlad/Flint’s girlfriend as a guest character), and Ismark. They were to secure the church then move to the center of the town.
Strike Team 3 was comprised of Esmerelda D’Avenir, two friendly revenant knights, and Mordu (Lucine’s adoptive Orc father). This team was to deal with the stores of vampire zombies in the south area of the town then convene with the others in the town center.
The fourth team was comprised of the Dusk Elf Kasimir and Pyotr Jr., a peasant that the party had chosen to recruit and squire. These two were to secure the town’s North Exit to help citizens evacuate to safety.
Lastly, team 5 was the wereravens who were able to work as a type of relay between the strike teams. Beyond that, they would also assist with getting innocent civilians out of town.
I have to say, it was the first time I’ve had this group really draw up a strategy of this size before. It made me really happy to see how much thought they were putting into how they organize the strike teams and planned their orders.
It felt like a moment where the party really felt rewarded for their good deeds up to this point. Allies that they gained through selfless acts of heroism were ready to help them stand against Fiona. The mood at the table was equal parts excitement and nervous tension.
The wind was howling as thunder echoed throughout Barovia. As flashes of lightning briefly illuminated the night sky, the amused face of Strahd Von Zarovich could be seen in the dark clouds over Vallaki.
It was time.
Strike Teams 1 and 2 began their assault on the Western Gate of Vallaki. Meanwhile, Strike Teams 3 and 4 began securing the Southeast and Northern Gates respectively.
To keep the action on the players, I had them make percentile and D20 rolls to determine how the other teams were doing.
Meanwhile, the party began attacking the guards at the Western Gate. The archers on the ramparts gave them some degree of trouble, but a well-placed use of the Suggestion spell on the Guard Captain made it easier for them to get into the town.
Once the initial guards were dealt with, the party began a new combat with the next wave. This second wave featured two new enemies: one of Fiona’s Elite “secret police” Guards and a robed spellcaster from her “book club.”
The combat was intense as the party had initially underestimated the two “special” enemies. The Elite Guard in particular happened to be rolling oddly well for his attacks, which made the party start worrying about their strategy.
Nevertheless, the party defeated these enemies and moved to secure the Blue Water Inn.
Just like this battle was a way to reward the party for gaining allies, it was also a way to bring back some of their most hated antagonists. In her paranoia, Fiona had found some allies of her own that also had an ax to grind with the party.
Each area of Vallaki would lead to a type of “mini-boss” encounter with a familiar face.
One of Strahd’s Brides was in the church. Nikolai, an Oni from a homebrewed questline, was in the Stockyard.
I couldn’t help but laugh at everyone’s collective scowl when they learned that the mini-boss in the Blue Water Inn was Arrigal, the only Vistani who the party could never fully reason with. They had embarrassed him numerous times throughout the adventure and he was ready to get his revenge.
As much as they hated this NPC, it was always clear that the feeling was mutual.
Fighting yet another one of Fiona’s Elite Guards, Robed Figure, and a mixture of town guards and bandits, this encounter was very nearly a TPK.
The guards and bandits did some trash damage while the Elite Guard was the enemy tank. The Robed Figure focused on spells that subdue the party while Arrigal crept in the backline to punish the party with Sneak Attacks. (He’s underwhelming in the book, so I rolled him up as a Rogue for this encounter.)
Saving the wereravens in the Blue Water Inn gives the party some measure of trouble, but fortunately, they’re able to rescue everyone.
After three combats, the party is beginning to worry about their resources. But they can’t afford to lose pace and begin to storm Fiona’s home, the Wachterhaus.
It was a mostly safe bet that Fiona would be secure in her home.
However, Fiona had expected that the party would attempt to find her there…
Everything was oddly quiet in the old home. As the party carefully explored, they found no evidence of anyone else being there.
However, they did notice several items from Fiona’s collection were missing. Most notably, the preserved body of their deceased ally, Vlad, was nowhere to be found.
“She didn’t…” Lucine gasped.
Rummaging through her collection in hopes of finding something useful, the party only managed to activate a trap. Fiona’s insidious laughter echoed through the house as the trap exploded.
As the Wachterhaus began to ignite, the party ran back outside.
“Where is she?!” Chad yelled.
It’s hard to tell which member of the party was more eager to “tell Fiona what time it is” (as Chad so wonderfully put it.)
They had all grown so tired of Fiona’s ploys and condescending attitude. She had turned all of Vallaki into a shrine to Strahd. If they could bring an end to her madness, it would send a clear message to Strahd and, hopefully, give the longsuffering citizens of Vallaki a chance at a better future.
Well… hopefully anyway…
Showdown with Fiona
Exiting the Wachterhaus, the fires and chaos had spread throughout Vallaki at a terrifying pace. Looking up into the skies, the party saw the triumphantly smirking face of Strahd in the clouds looking down at them.
Moving towards the town center and dispatching any guards or vampire zombies they encountered on the way, the party came face to face with their primary target.
Fiona was dressed in her nicest gown as she surveyed the carnage with a grim look of satisfaction. With a smirk towards the party, it was time to roll initiative.
In the combat, Fiona stayed in the backline of her forces. Several regular guards and vampire zombies, two Elite Guards, and two Robed Figures formed her frontline.
After the first round of combat was over, two more of Fiona’s allies entered the fray. Ernst emerged with a dagger to Lucine’s back while the reanimated body of the party’s former ally, Vlad, attacked Kronus.
The party’s resources were running thin and they started to worry if they were in over their heads.
The Cavalry Is Here
The percentile dice that the party had been rolling were meant to determine how much progress each Strike Team was making. Because each team was to meet in the town center after securing their objective, the party had to hold out long enough for their allies to join them.
Unfortunately, Strike Team 2 was having a great deal of trouble in the Church against Strahd’s Bride. While everyone on the team would live, they were never able to converge on the town center.
Strike Team 3, however, performed incredibly well. They stopped the flow of zombies, dispatched Fiona’s most brutal ally, and arrived just in time to take heat off of the party.
The other Strike Teams were serving defensive roles in their respective areas of the town.
After some lengthy combat rounds, the heroes managed to greatly whittle down Fiona’s forces. Soon it was only Fiona, one Robed Figure, Ernst, and Vlad left.
Unfortunately, Kronus was finding himself running out of spell slots. While he had managed to counter some of Fiona’s biggest spells, he was almost completely tapped out.
Fiona managed to drop both of the party’s Revenant friends before Chad was able to close in on her. Esmerelda worked with Kronus to take out the last Robed Figure.
But it was the scream from the party’s backline that nearly broke everyone’s focus.
As Mordu was attempting to save Lucine from Ernst and Vlad, Lucine failed her final death saving throw. Enraged, Mordu went wild on Ernst and Vlad.
Once the Robed Figure was dealt with, Kronus and Esmerelda ran to assist Mordu.
Not it was just Chad and Fiona.
But Wait! There’s More!
There wasn’t much Fiona could do against Chad, the furious Vengeance Paladin. She had exhausted most of her spells thanks to Kronus and didn’t have any more of her minions running to her assistance.
Still, she firmly believed it to be beneath her station to show any amount of weakness.
On his next turn, Chad delivered two Divine Smites (one of which happened to be a critical hit) and dropped her to the ground.
With that, he started to run back towards Lucine’s body. He had a diamond and could bring her back to life with a Revivify spell if he could make it there in time.
However, a dark and echoing laughter began to come from Fiona’s body.
“You think you can stand against me? You are fools! Pawns meant only to be discarded!” the voice cackled.
You see, the most convenient way to really power Fiona up was to have her actually manage to succeed in contacting… something… that could give her the power that she craves.
While the Dark Powers that preside over the Ravenloft setting might not have seen it fit to grant Fiona her own Domain of Dread, they might have found the motivation to grant her a twisted version of her power-hungry desire.
As Fiona stood up with an unnatural posture, her bones began to warp and grow. Her face pulled tightly back and sharpened fangs and bony spines forcefully grew outward. Emerging from her back, a large scorpion-like tail.
She took on the nightmarish form of a Bone Devil. With cold and hollowed eyes, the party could still feel the pure malice focused entirely on them.
I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed with how this final part of the encounter went.
I’ve never seen so many critical hits in such a small amount of time!
But mostly, I was excited to see how much Chad was getting into it. Particularly as a Vengeance Paladin who had tolerated way more of Fiona’s behavior than he thought he could, it was thematically perfect.
As he focused on bringing Lucine back to life, Fiona was able to get a couple of hits in on Chad. The next round, as the entire party dogpiled her, it was game over for Lady Fiona.
The smiling face of Strahd in the clouds seemed to squint in disapproval at the party before disappearing.
Around the town, the party and their allies worked to put out any fires they could and get whatever civilians they could to safety.
It seemed that Vallaki was saved for now. Maybe the people will be able to rebuild it in time.
But, for now, the party had to keep their momentum and head towards Castle Ravenloft for their final showdown. They would stop to rest in the village of Barovia and then they would bring this entire nightmare to an end.
So, yeah, Fiona ended up being WAY different in my group’s
Even though she was such an awful (in the best way) NPC, the party came to rely on her knowledge quite a bit throughout the adventure. Unfortunately, this saw them bringing powerful artifacts and knowledge back to her in exchange for her assistance.
Instead of the foul-tempered but ultimately ineffective foil to Baron Vallakovich that Lady Fiona is in the book, it became necessary to really add some bite to back up all of the barking that she did.
I was a little worried if the party was more excited to take Fiona on than Strahd, but fortunately, it seemed to succeed in making their fight with Strahd all the more personal.
They may have begun the adventure thinking that there was SOME kind of redeeming quality to Strahd, but the constant tragedy in Vallaki really cemented to the party that there is nowhere that is fully safe from the vampire lord’s darkness.
Conclusion – Fiona Wachter Took Over Vallaki
There’s not a whole lot of guidance for what to do if Fiona successfully takes over Vallaki. So hopefully this has given you some inspiration for ideas to include in your own game.
At the end of the day, being able to take these kinds of creative liberties with hooks that your players are interested in is one of the greatest aspects of D&D.
For my group, this encounter served as a way to tie a nice bow around the story thus far, close out “Act 2” of the adventure, and move on to their final push into Castle Ravenloft to slay Strahd.
Thanks for checking out this extra-large entry in my D&D Storytime series! I hope you’ve found it entertaining!
If you’ve played Curse of Strahd before, did your group side with Fiona or Baron Vallakovich? How did that affect the story?
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